Commentary: County football given a little ink
by John Bednarowski
August 11, 2013 12:13 AM | 3997 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Every summer, the newsstands are loaded with NFL and college football preview magazines.

Now, we can add high school to the mix, too.

Athlon Sports recently published its first prep periodical, and it breaks down each state with preseason players of the year, a top 10 and all-state teams.

The states that play better high school football get more ink, with the nation broken into four tiers, beginning with the most prominent states at 1.

Tier 1 includes Georgia, Alabama, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — each of which have four pages apiece in the magazine. The Tier 4 states of Delaware, Maine, New York and Wyoming among others are relegated to a half-page apiece.

The big difference between Athlon and any local or state publication, or the Georgia High School Association, is that the magazine looks at everything statewide — regardless of classification — and Cobb County is well-represented.

The most impressive thing the magazine compiled were the preseason all-state teams. As a Tier 1 state, Athlon offers first, second and third teams, and they include seven Cobb players.

Pope’s 6-foot-4, 305-pound offensive lineman, Max Kemper, earned first-team honors, as did Walton defensive back D.J. Smith and Allatoona linebacker Justin Wade. While Kemper and Smith are in high demand from major college recruiters, this will hopefully help Wade get looks from above the level of Tennessee State and Tennessee-Martin, two FCS schools that have already given him scholarship offers.

Hillgrove wide receiver Emanuel Beal earned a spot on the second-team offense, and a trio of players — South Cobb defensive lineman Justin Jones, McEachern defensive lineman Henry Famurewa and Wheeler defensive back Allen Artis — earned third-team defensive nods.

It was hard to argue with the magazine’s choice of Gainesville quarterback Deshaun Watson and Norcross defensive lineman Lorenzo Carter — a former two-sport standout at Whitefield Academy — as its preseason offensive and defensive players of the year, but if North Cobb quarterback Tyler Queen improves on his impressive 2012 numbers, he may be in the mix for the offensive prize in 2014.

In the state’s top 10, North Cobb was ranked seventh. I would have told Athlon to add McEachern to the mix, but they must have lost my phone number since they’ve yet to contact me for my opinion.

The full top 10 was Norcross, Sandy Creek, Gainesville, North Gwinnett, Colquitt County, Camden County, North Cobb, Lovejoy, St. Pius X and Tucker.

Other Cobb teams I think should’ve been considered for the top 10 are Walton and Kell.

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Georgia Public Broadcasting released its schedule of the games it will broadcast in the regular season, and the state will get to see large amounts of Cobb County football throughout the season, with extra emphasis on McEachern and Walton.

The schedule starts on Aug. 24 in the Georgia Dome for the Corky Kell Classic, with Kell-Chattahoochee, Walton-Peachtree Ridge and McEachern-Brookwood.

On Sept. 20, the Indians are on again when they travel to Northcutt Stadium to play Marietta. Two weeks later, Lassiter is at Walton for their annual Region 5AAAAAA matchup. On Oct. 18, McEachern is on the road again, this time at North Cobb for a game that may decide Region 4AAAAAA, and one week later, the Raiders return to the airwaves when they travel to Milton.

There are still chances that list could grow as the Sept. 27 GPB game has yet to be determined, and there could be some playoff games added in November.

The second “Battle of I-75” at McEachern’s Walter Cantrell Stadium will also be televised. Both games will be seen on CSS on Aug. 30, with Walton taking on Hillgrove in the opener and McEachern hosting Lassiter in the nightcap.

* * * 

For the five players who signed free-agent contracts with NFL clubs following the draft in April, the preseason games are an opportunity to make an impression — if not for the team they signed with, then for another one that might need to fill a spot later during the season.

For Philip Lutzenkirchen, Chase Thomas, Brynden Traywick, Camden Wentz and Richard Kent, Week 1 of the preseason was productive.

The biggest impression may have come from Traywick, the former Sprayberry and Troy product trying to earn a spot with Super Bowl champion Baltimore.

The defensive back was on special teams and blocked a Tampa Bay punt that was recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. If he is to earn a spot with Ravens, his performance special teams will be paramount.

Kent, the former Walton and Vanderbilt standout who signed with San Diego, punted five times against Seattle for a 48.8-yard average, with a long of 57. He likely won’t unseat 11th-year pro Mike Scifres as the Chargers’ starting punter, but that kind of average will make the phone ring when Kent hits the waiver wire in a few weeks.

Thomas, another former Walton Raider who went on to star at Stanford, got into the backfield and registered a quarterback hit for New Orleans as the Saints played Kansas City. An article last week from New Orleans’ Times-Picayune newspaper listed Thomas as one of the top five undrafted free agents likely to make the club.

Lutzenkirchen, the former Lassiter and Auburn tight end, made two catches against Cleveland for 18 yards. The second was a pass on the sideline where he dove, grabbed the ball and dragged his feet before going out of bounds. The play resulted in a first down.

There were no stats on Wentz, another former Trojan and recent N.C. State graduate, but the Minneapolis Star Tribune has reported that the offensive lineman is working with the Minnesota Vikings’ second-team offense at center.

Two other local players with NFL experience — Cincinnati’s Chris Lewis-Harris and Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Dwyer — were also trying to impress coaches to try and earn another season on the roster.

Lewis-Harris, the former Campbell standout, recorded two tackles and a pass defended against Atlanta on Thursday.

Dwyer, the former Kell and Georgia Tech running back who shed nearly 30 pounds this offseason and is down to 230 pounds, had six carries for 15 yards Saturday against the New York Giants. He also caught two short passes, but for negative yardage.

Dwyer, who was Pittsburgh’s leading rusher last season, is in a particularly tight position battle with Isaac Redman and rookie Le’Veon Bell, leaving the Steelers to decide which back gets the most minutes.

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